Time and Place: Women of the North Midlands exhibition launches in Carnamah for International Women’s Day

Jessica MoroneyMidwest Times
Ella DeBruyn from Carnamah features in the Women of the North Midlands exhibition.
Camera IconElla DeBruyn from Carnamah features in the Women of the North Midlands exhibition. Credit: Martine Perret

A Mid West photographic exhibition launching on International Women’s Day is shining a stunning spotlight on the unique stories of more than a dozen women from around the district.

Women of the North Midlands is an artist-in-residency exhibition launching on Wednesday at the Banks Gallery in Carnamah to coincide with International Woman’s Day and features the stories of 14 Mid West women from the North Midlands area.

Artist Maritine Perret said the purpose of the six-week residency was to explore the theme of Time and Place, engaging with communities in Carnamah, Coorow, Eneabba, Mingenew, Morawa, Perenjori, Three Springs and neighbouring Moora and Mullewa.

“The women took part in a six-week residency, centred around how people manage change differently as they move through life’s ages and stages,” she said.

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“It served to acknowledge how people handle situations differently when they are younger or older, and that there is a time and place for everything.”

Perret will also be in Carnamah between Tuesday, March 7 to 21 and will deliver workshops to schools in the area.

Here are the stories of some of the women featured in the photographic exhibition, whom although different share many common inspirations — country life, community and families — and concerns — mental health and a sense of isolation.

Catie Davenport from Texas now lives in Carnamah.
Camera IconCatie Davenport from Texas now lives in Carnamah. Credit: Martine Perret


Catie Davenport moved to Australia on a study abroad program from Texas, but now finds herself living in Carnamah after meeting and falling in love with her husband who is from the Mid West town.

Ms Davenport speaks about the shock moving to a town with a small population compared to America and the isolation of farm work, long hours and hard work that goes into it.

“There are times when you don’t want to get out of bed and it almost feeds into its own cycle where you isolate yourself even more, and you can get stuck in the perpetuity of that cycle,” she said.

“You really have to make an effort to insert yourself socially because the opportunities, they are not just everywhere as they would be in a bigger town.”

Ms Davenport hopes to begin a project for women, their mental health and shining light on them and their role in the community for International Women’s Day next year.

Ella DeBruyn from Carnamah features in the Women of the North Midlands exhibition.
Camera IconElla DeBruyn from Carnamah features in the Women of the North Midlands exhibition. Credit: Martine Perret


The 20-year-old from Carnamah says the transition of growing up on an outback farm to being a boarder at school forged a resilience and independence within her.

She hoped stereotypes of women not being capable of farm work would be abolished and is studying to become a veterinary nurse in the future.

“Growing up on the farm has instilled in me a special interest in production animals so I would like to initially work in a mixed practice clinic,” Ms DeBruyn said.

“I was able to hand-rear lambs and calves that had been orphaned which was a wonderful experience and there was so much freedom being able to enjoy all of the space.”

But she said farming was a stressful and remote job which could have an impact on a person’s mental health and believed people would benefit from better access to resources.

“Maybe due to the isolation and remoteness, it’s not really something that’s focused on here in the country, people tend to brush it off,” she said.

Cheryl Bell in the Women of the North Midlands exhibition.
Camera IconCheryl Bell in the Women of the North Midlands exhibition. Credit: Martine Perret


Cheryl Bell grew up at Littlewell Reserve in Mingenew in a small tin and iron-roofed house consisting of a wood stove and a front veranda. There was a communal ablution block in the middle of the houses — modified shipping containers — with showers and toilets and a cement wash trough.

Ms Bell said the reserve still had remnants of the cement floors for each house and remembered her grandmother Maggie Bell taking her on bush walks, looking for bush tucker, digging for Karnos, Quandong fruit, gum from Acacia trees and eating Bardi grubs and goanna cooked on a small fire.

“My parents were a loving, hard-working couple and were one of the first families to be moved from the reserve into a house in town,” she said.

“Dad was the joker of the couple, he always told stories and joked with us, even though mum was the disciplinarian she cared for us with a lot of patience and love and never had any animosity towards others despite being sent away to New Norcia mission.”

Ms Bell said her mother remembered her mission days as receiving little education and being put to work, with one of her jobs to hand wash the monks’ robes.

“Mum was born under a pepper tree — which has since been cut down — in Mingenew on June 28, 1928 and the place where my family and I live now, a pepper tree has grown in the backyard,” she said.

Lou Cole in Women of the North Midlands exhibition.
Camera IconLou Cole in Women of the North Midlands exhibition. Credit: Martine Perret


The New Zealander has lived in Three Springs for 10 years and grew up around orchards, vineyards and asparagus and cabbage pickers back home.

One with a travel bug, she spent four years travelling around Australia before COVID and made her return to Three Springs, where she works as a wool classer.

Ms Cole said she admired the sheep shearers who worked “all day, every day” as their job was really rugged. She speaks about the need to “harden up” in order to accomplish her goals and adjusting to country WA.

“When I first arrived in Three Springs, I remember waking up in the morning and kicking myself because it looked so different to what I thought I was coming to,” she said.

“Being a part of the North Midlands and being a part of the Three Springs community has really made me who I am.”

Ms Cole said she felt empowered being a woman in the Mid West and could see herself staying to become an even bigger part of the community.

Terina Campbell
Camera IconTerina Campbell Credit: Martine Perret


Terina Campbell delves into her quick entry into the world in the car ride headed towards Three Springs Hospital.

“Being the eighth child, mum certainly knew when I was ready,” she said. “She said ‘Bill, stop the car — I’m having this baby’, and my sister Gaye caught me,” she said.

Ms Campbell lives in Latham and holds a passion for the country’s wildflowers, flora and fauna and began planting trees in 2011 at what is now a tourist park.

“Over the years I’ve watched the number of tourists visiting our town and park increase. About 300 visited last year, and that’s just the ones that signed our guest book,” she said.

“I came home after living in Perth for 15 years for a reason and that’s to plant trees and keep my dad’s spirit alive because he was a tree planter in Latham.”

Ms Campbell said her husband Steve taught their children it’s OK for a man to be in the kitchen, washing and cleaning.

Madeline Anderson
Camera IconMadeline Anderson Credit: Martine Perret


Madeline Anderson talks about racism, falling through the cracks and the result of lacking a connection to country. She said after graduating from Year 12, she began to play up but was quickly put back in line by her grandfather.

“I was up to no good, my grandfather didn’t like it, not one bit. He was afraid of me falling through the cracks. He said a few things that scared me and I never turned back. I never wanted to dishonour my grandfather and it was a bit of a shock that put me in line,” she said.

“They were the only people that I trusted to keep me safe and teach me life skills. If I’d lost that, then where would I be?”

Ms Anderson said after living in the city for 12 years, her body began to deteriorate and her mind wasn’t strong.

“It took for me to be in hospital for a long period of time and being very unwell to realise that. There was a strong desire to take my family back to the country, back home,” she said.

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